Guide to off-campus adventures

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

When first arriving at Swarthmore, a trip to the Co-op can seem like an adventure. But even compared to the gardens here in the Scott Arboretum, the grass does eventually look greener on the outside. Unsure of what’s out there? The Daily Gazette is here to help.

Even the least adventurous students make it into the town of Swarthmore, or the Ville in Swat-speak. There you can find such bastions of late night food cravings as Renato’s, Cheng Hing, and Dunkin Donuts. Vicky’s Place also offers standard diner fair and is perfect for an off campus breakfast. To stock up on snacks or even for more extensive grocery shopping there is the Swarthmore Co-op. Heading north towards Baltimore Pike your options for eating out expand and there is also Genuari’s, a grocery store which may or may not be cheaper than the Co-op. You may also want to look into our coverage of the Chester Co-op. If you want a nice restaurant nearby your best bet may be heading west on Baltimore Pike to Media. Check out the Gazette’s restaurant guides for a more detailed description. Everything in Swarthmore is a short walk away, and even Media is walkable even if the Pike lacks sidewalks. If you can’t find a ride and need to buy more than you’d like to carry back to Swat, look into the Target shuttle.

Admissions mailings emphasize Swarthmore’s location as so close to Philadelphia, yet removed from the city; it takes a while for most students to figure out how to bridge that gap. Welcome to SEPTA. The Philadelphia area transit system may not be the most glamorous or well-funded, but for $8.25 you can get a round trip train ticket to Center City. That’s of course if you remember to buy your off-peak ticket ahead of time at the station during their morning hours. SEPTA can be frustrating, and their frequently delayed trains aren’t the most reliable. The truth is they usually get you where you want to go, but there are a few things to remember:

  1. 1. Always check the schedule online for changes and be sure to bring a current schedule with you (the one on your dorm resource board may be outdated).
  2. 2. Buy your tickets in advance for cheaper fairs. The seller will usually tell you if there’s a cheaper route than what you’re buying.
  3. 3. If you’re unsure if you’re picking the right train, subway, or bus, just use the SEPTA Trip Planner.

If you get stuck in Philadelphia after the regional rail stops running (as early as 11:30) you’ll need to know how to take the right bus. The route back to Swarthmore on a late weekend night requires you to take one Night Owl bus on the Market Frankfort Line to 69th St. Terminal, and then the Route 109 to Swarthmore. In Center City you can catch the bus to 69th St. on the north side of Market St. Be sure to ask for a transfer pass on your first bus. The total one-way fair is $2.75, but it takes a lot longer than regional rail.

But if you plan ahead, you don’t have to worry about it; you can take Swat’s Philly Shuttle on the weekends instead. The driver, Billy, is incredibly nice and will often drop you off exactly where you’re going. Just sign up online at least 4-5 hours in advance depending on availability, and you have a free ride into the city.

Another form of transportation worth mentioning is PhillyCarShare; check out the Gazette’s previous coverage to see if it might be right for you. Also, an important cheap option to keep in mind when leaving the Philadelphia area is the Chinatown bus system. A variety of companies operate very cheap buses out of Chinatown. Though you may hear some stories of these buses breaking down, getting lost, etc., the line between Philadelphia and NYC is pretty reliable. And for as cheap as $20 round-trip it’s hard to beat the price.

Until now: A newcomer to Philadelphia is the Megabus company. If you book way in advance, you can get a round-trip ticket to NYC for $2. I haven’t taken them myself, but the internet contains rave reviews from many people. To top it off, they have wifi.

Now that you know how to get to Philadelphia, there are a million things for you to do. On the more historical side of things, you can visit the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross’s house, Independence Hall, and the National Constitution Center. Other sites of interest include Christ Church–where Ben Franklin, George Washington, Betsy Ross, and much of the early American government worshiped–and the Arch Street Friends Meeting. A great way to see Old City Philadelphia is to take a nighttime ghost tour; they’re offered at least daily until November. During the Halloween season it’s a particularly good idea to book tickets in advance.

In addition to historic sites, museums you should visit include the Franklin Institute Science Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Rodin Museum. If you have a strong stomach and want to see a few things you will thankfully not encounter elsewhere, try visiting the collections of medical oddities at the Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. More aesthetic sights can also be had in Old City on the First Friday of every month, when many galleries of an open house with free admission. Another great event to keep in mind is the annual College Day on the Parkway, when lots of museums offer free admission to college students. This year it takes place on Saturday, September 27.

There are also many performance venues in Philadelphia to plan on visiting. For classical music, the Philadelphia Orchestra’s student tickets are a cheap $10 online. Swat’s opera club may also organize trips to the Opera Company of Philadelphia. The Network for New Music is involved in many interesting premier performances. Two venues which program a variety of types of music are the World Cafe Live and the Painted Bride Art Center. During the first two weeks of classes the Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe will bring a large amount of theater, dance, and other performances to the area. During the rest of the year, theaters that offer rush tickets or student discounts include the Wilma Theater, the Walnut Street Theater, and the Arden Theater Company.

Philadelphia has a wide variety of restaurants, with most of the best establishments being located in and around Old City or Rittenhouse Square. Lots of small, cheap east Asian food can be found in Chinatown north of market, and I always enjoy the many Ethiopian restaurants south of University City. A big deal is often made of Philadelphia’s Restaurant Week, but the prix fixe meals are only worth the price if you go to the most expensive of restaurants. Check out the Gazette’s reviews to find the right restaurant.

Be certain to take advantage of the many restaurants, museums, galleries, performances, and everything else just outside of the Swarthmore campus. Welcome, class of 2012!


  1. 0
    Jason's ship with hint of citrus says:

    Don’t listen to Amy. She’s leading you astray.
    It is a way to save money, but great it is not. You must be prepared mentally and physically for such an ordeal.

  2. 0
    Argos says:

    Trader Joe’s is headed by a cult of jerks. I am speaking as the bastard child of someone who works there.

    No, I was once a non-angry vegetarian. I was fine.
    Then I wanted to taste death again.

  3. 0
    Jeanie says:

    well thanks for the heads up. i’m more interested in the non-angry vegetarians, though, are they starving? if the vegetarians you’re familiar with are markedly angry then they might actually be closet cannibals who regularly act out on their disdain for the human race, which would account for their satiation. any info on the hunger quotient of peace-loving vegetarians who genuinely prefer plant-based foods?

    and why does a Trader Joe’s need a security guard? i mean, philadelphia, i know, i know. but still…? well, next time he starts to be a pain in the ass, try letting him know that the arbequina olive tapenade you stuck under your shirt and tried to walk out the door with is actually for your dying grandmother who was craving one last taste of the old world. that usually softens up even the most malevolent security guard, i’ve found. that and well-applied false eyelashes. well at least it works for me. starting august 26th you can stop in my room at any time and check out a fancy condiments collection whose contents i never paid for.

  4. 0
    Argos says:

    It is Genuardi’s. And it is pronounced Jeh-nahr-dee’s.
    Just to clarify.
    Because whenever someone says “Jeh-nuu-arr-dee’s”, I get mad.
    And I pity the fool who makes me mad.

    Also, the campus is full of angry vegetarians, and they don’t seem to be starving. The food is fine. You’ll be fine.

    Also of note: there is a Trader Joe’s at 22nd and Market. Their produce sucks, but everything else is okay. Watch out for the security guard. He’s a pain in the ass.

  5. 0
    Jeanie says:

    As an incoming transfer student (don’t worry, us transfers are used to being welcomed/addressed under the ‘Class of 2012’ banner even though there are eighteen of us) and vegan, I had a lot of worries about groceries and food after hearing Sharples horror stories (though I’m not sure exactly how exaggerated they are; everything I’ve tried so far at Sharples has been okay)…until I found the Swarthmore Co-Op. That place is awesome! They have a really good selection of all-natural, organic, and vegetarian things for prices generally more reasonable than Whole Foods…and the location is so convenient. I am at ease now, and no doubt the SEPTA will make it easy to get to one of Phily’s Whole Foods if the Co-Op doesn’t have something I just can’t live without…plus there’s a Trader Joe’s, which has lots of good but inexpensive gourmet, all-natural, and vegetarian stuff, less than ten minutes away (by car) in Media. I thought I’d add this for any incoming students who might have similar food/lifestyle habits…not sure how many there are.
    Thanks for the info and links in this article. I’ve been to Philadelphia a million times but only used the SEPTA for the first time on my most recent visit. Also, I usually go into the city with a particular purpose and don’t stick around all day, so there’s a lot that goes on that I just don’t know about. Your article shed light on many things I wasn’t aware of. I’m addicted to big cities so all this Swarthmore-tailored Philly travel info will come in use (or at least I hope I’ll have enough free time for it to be useful…).

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